I was attending a Brookfield Chapter AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers) meeting at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo late last year when the subject of our annual Vital Grounds spaghetti dinner/fundraiser came up. As they’ve been doing this event for several years now, they’ve pretty much got it all down to a science (food, auction items, ticket info, etc).
There was one aspect of the occasion, however, that wasn’t quite so clear…namely the entertainment. For the past several years, Chicago-gone-national horror host, Svengoolie, had been their featured guest which guaranteed a strong turn-out & much-needed funds for the cause. However, with Sven’s health scare in November that was no longer a certainty. Everyone at the table turned and looked at me…
If you grew up a dinosaur fan like me, then you probably remember the release of 1993′s Jurassic Park as being a cinematic game changer! Not only did it feature the most REAL looking dinosaurs ever to stomp the Silver Screen, but also ones that were (at the time) the most scientifically accurate. Gone were the days of two-legged, meat-eaters like Tyrannosaurus Rex standing up straight while dragging its tail behind him as Steven Spielberg proved that CGI effects (when done correctly) were the wave of the future. This past weekend not only saw the re-release of that film (in a new 3D format), but also the opening of an animatronic dinosaur exhibit at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo! What a wonderful time to be a dino-geek…especially one living near The Windy City!
Anybody who knows me, and has followed this blog for any length of time, knows that I have a deep love and commitment to Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. As an animal lover, I strongly believe in the conservation endeavors that mine and all AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) accredited institutions perform as well as their work in educating and ingratiating the public to nature during their recreational visits. It may seem that nature loving and the horror genre are like “night and day,” interest-wise, but here in Chicago my worlds have been known to collide with the presence of our local-gone-national horror host, Svengoolie!
Early last summer, I published some photos of Brookfield Zoo’s 2012 ”X-Treme Bugs” exhibit (see HERE). Sadly, this special exhibit has swarmed and gone but not before giving guests one last look during their “Creatures of the Night” event. Here are some pictures that will surely appeal those of us who grew up devoted to those giant atomic bug movies that were so popular back in the ’50s.
On Friday, October 19th, I was joined by my friend and Terror Dave Girl Friday (the 13th), Elizabeth Ocon, along with my son, Alex, to get our first glimpse at Brookfield Zoo’s 2012 “Creatures of the night!”
Horror Host, Svengoolie, was slated to arrive at 7pm but, by 6:30, there was already a long line winding around the zoo’s Discovery Center to see him. Svengoolie never disappoints when it comes to drawing large crowds at Brookfield Zoo! I remember at last year’s event (covered HERE) the line wrapped around the bison yard and eventually had to get cut off. In an effort to accomodate all of the eager fans, no pictures were permitted, just autographs. It didn’t seem to damper anyones mood and many found clever ways to snap pictures with him anyway while Sven added his own humorous touches.
Anyone who really knows me understands that, interest-wise, I’m driven by two major things; zoos (animals) and genre films (horror, sci-fi, fantasy). I’ve been affiliated with my local Brookfield Zoo for the better part of 13 years and, as it was the zoo I grew up with and inspired my love of animals, consider it a sacred place. These past few years have been like a dream come true as my two worlds have finally begun to merge with regular guest appearances from my beloved horror host, Svengoolie. These happen each spring for our annual AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers) Spaghetti dinner as well as the zoo’s night time Halloween event, “Creatures of the Night.”
Not long ago, I had a bit of a health scare. It started while I was on vacation in March enjoying the Horrorhound Weekend while also embarking on a zoo tour with the other Dave. I started feeling sore on my left chest and, after investigating, discovered a lump. I started getting scared as breast cancer is not a disease relegated to women (just ask Peter Criss from KISS) but also runs in my family. My mother successfully fought it back in the 90′s and last year my grandfather on my dad’s side was diagnosed as well.
Last month we reported the Halloween activities at the two zoos in which The Daves are volunteer docents; Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo and Rhode Island’s Roger Williams Park (in a story you can revisit HERE)! Both zoo’s served up a fantastic seasonal event that is something ALL local readers should plan on attending next year. Brookfield Zoo gets a special nod from horror fans for delving into the darker side of Halloween and proving (by its huge turn out) that us adult horror fans are a financial force to be reckoned with. “Creatures of the Night” proved a devilishly good time with lots of great activities such as this “Pumpkin Execution” – courtesy of a device created by the zoo’s exhibits department and utilizing materials laying around the zoo. While orange and black are most commonly associated with the holiday’s colors, Brookfield Zoo made it even more spectacular by going “Green.”
This past week, I had the unique opportunity to experience two zoo Halloween attractions located over a thousand miles from each other. Both Daves are volunteer docents (from the Greek word “to teach”) at their respective zoos and enjoy sharing their important conservation messages with thier guests. I have been affiliated with Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo for over 13 years (both as employee and volunteer) and David Albaugh joined his zoo (Roger Williams Park in Rhode Island) earlier this year. Before I continue, let me state that this is NOT a compare/contrast piece. Each year, numerous guests at the zoo will say things to me like, “Your zoo is better than mine,” “My zoo is better than yours,” etc. The truth is, all Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos are not in competition with one another. In fact, it is quite the contrary. These non-profit organizations all work together for the singular purpose of doing important conservation research around the world (which most of the public is unaware of ) while also educating and connecting their visitors with nature during their recreational visits.